French minister defends 'jungle' clearance

France’s immigration minister today defended the operation to close down 'the jungle', a ramshackle immigrant camp near Calais in northern France.

Eric Besson insisted the early morning police action at the immigration camp near Calais was not designed to round up as many immigrants as possible.

As bulldozers and tree surgeons razed the makeshift camp, Mr Besson told a press conference his objective was to put a stop to people trafficking.

Speaking about the number of police officers involved in the process, he said: “The objective of this massive presence is precisely to prevent anyone from slipping away and to discourage all violence.”

He added: “I made the choice to announce this operation, because first of all, my objective was not to round up the greatest possible number of migrants by surprising them at dawn, but to destroy the continuous flow of trafficked human beings.”

The carefully planned operation had gone as was planned, he told reporters in Calais.

The clear-out involved 30 interpreters, three bulldozers, around 10 lorries, a specialist cleaning team and a team of tree surgeons.

Since the police went in this morning, he said immigrants had been spoken to and were discussing whether they would apply for asylum in France or return to their home countries.

“This morning we again offered each person concerned, through individual interviews, housing possibilities, the possibility of lodging a formal request for asylum, and assistance returning to their country of origin, examining both the situation of the person in question and that of the country concerned.”

He added: “In total, there were around 700 people in this illegal village three months ago. There remained about 300 last week. As I speak to you, there is not one person left there.”


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